This month I celebrate my fifth anniversary as a business owner, and I remain incredibly thankful for the opportunity to pursue my passion in running an all-natural sweets business. In recent months, people have asked me, what advice would you give to someone starting out, a young entrepreneur? Honestly, except for my gray hair, I still think of myself as a young entrepreneur with a lot to learn, especially as I pass this milestone and move to the next phase of growing the business. In reflecting on the first five years, below are five lessons I’ve learned along the way in building and running a business from the ground up.
There is never enough time to do all the things I want to do. No matter how well I plan and how organized I think I am, there is always one, um, I mean 10 more things to do. Oh, and I love it when projects and tasks that I had not planned to work on come up and take longer than I think they will. I’ve accepted that even if I got my wish for a 36-hour day, it still wouldn’t be long enough… mostly because I know I would find plenty of things to do with the extra 12 hours.
People will help you if you ask. I was raised to be independent, so I had to learn to ask for help. I have an unbelievable village of family, friends, partners, and supporters across the country, and particularly in Chicago!, who genuinely want to help me and see my business succeed. Their sincere, continuous offers to help me made asking a whole lot easier—thank you! I’ve definitely gotten better and it’s made a world of difference—both professionally and personally.
There is a tricky balance between persistence and patience. Sometimes hurdles and roadblocks come up and I ask myself, should I persist and push past it or wait patiently for better timing and/or a better opportunity? I once waited months to partner with someone on what seemed to be a “done deal” on a collaboration for the perfect production space. Turns out it wasn’t perfect or a done deal. After eight months of waiting patiently, I had to be persistent and move on.
Word-of-mouth is not only the best form of advertising and my reputation as a business owner depends on it. What people say and how they regard me as a business owner matter. While it’s wonderful to have great products that people love, providing excellent service and maintaining wonderful client and partner relationships are heart of the business and the core of who I am as a person. Many new clients are referrals from existing ones.
Expect the unexpected. This one is hard. I cannot begin to share some of the things I’ve faced as a business owner that I never thought I would experience in my life (maybe they will go in the book my friends keep saying I should write... hahaha). Some experiences are funny, like running into the alley behind FedEx to beg the driver to take a shipment before he drives off, which I’ve done more than once and they are always so gracious, while other experiences are challenging, frustrating, or time consuming. In short, I’ve learned that anything can happen.